A study in the June 4 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that HIV-positive people, including those who have progressed to an AIDS diagnosis, can successfully undergo and recover from heart transplant operations as long as antiretroviral medications have their HIV infection under control, Reuters Health reports. The analysis was based on the case report of Robert Zackin, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1992 and underwent successful heart transplant surgery in February 2001. The study authors write that while organ transplants were routinely denied to HIV-positive people in the past because of the likelihood of life-threatening complications, the success of antiretroviral drugs in controlling HIV infection has largely eliminated that threat. Previous studies also have found that HIV-positive people with undetectable viral loads respond just as well to kidney and liver transplants as organ recipients who are HIV-negative.
"If HIV-infected patients are now expected to live long and productive lives when they are successfully treated, then they should not be penalized for the advances in medicine that may allow them to benefit from transplantation," the authors wrote.